12/4/09

There's Something About Gary

Francione, that is.  From Google alerts that keep landing in my mailbox, I've learned he's an absolute master of the ad hominem, and at grandstanding, and demanding apologies instead of answering criticism, and putting excerpts from private email on the internet, and misinterpreting them to begin with. One of his ad hominems has to do with Temple Grandin endorsing my book.  May as well consort with the devil, he seems to think. But I'm thrilled with the endorsement.

Temple Grandin is a hero in my eyes (and by the way, also in the eyes of PETA, who gave her an award a couple of years ago).  That's so even if she's more accepting of the whole practice of animal consumption than I am.  Here's the kind of change she's brought about in slaughter houses: under her auditing system, stunning has to work on the first attempt 95% of the time.  That's a significant improvement over past success rates (data here).  Without stunning, a cow will be conscious when hoisted up by her back leg and getting her throat slit.  When stunning is unsuccessful on first attempt, the animal endures much more pain. 

Now Gary (and he has to be just "Gary" because back when we were using honorifics, he thought it was right to address me as Adjunct Professor Kazez) thinks this is just a trivial improvement.  That's his general assessment of all "humane" reforms.  They're no more of an improvement than "being tortured with electrical shocks while strapped into a padded chair rather than a chair without padding."  (See here--and note the ad hominems.  Just what "welfarist corporations" does Peter Singer "lead"?!)

The trouble with Gary is that he's "abstractifying," to use a lovely term coined by Temple.  He's focusing entirely on killing itself, as the fundamental wrong we do to animals--or treating animals as property, which he considers our primary mistake.  He's not getting inside the minds of animals, which is what Temple Grandin is so good at (her book Animals in Translation is fantastic).  There's a huge difference between being effectively stunned and going to your slaughter, and being unstunned, or struggling after an initial improper stunning and being stunned again.  The difference is by no means trivial, and given how many animals will in fact be slaughtered in the foreseeable future, we've got to take it seriously.

Of course, if Grandin's auditing system did do something trivial for animals, that wouldn't be a reason to object.  An animal activist has no reason to care if animal scientists and meatpackers are just wasting their time and money.  What bothers him, really, is that he thinks with reforms like this, people are going to eat more meat.  So there's going to be more killing, and more of all the abuses that go along with animal agriculture.

Even if that were the case, I'd still have a hard time believing we don't have an obligation to make animal slaughter as gentle as possible.  We should not use animals' suffering strategically, leaving some of it in place in the hopes of discouraging animal consumption.  In effect, this is what Gary would have us do.  (My saying this is what's got him hurling so much abuse at me.  Too bad he hasn't just responded with a clarification of his true aims or a defense of this sort of strategy. It might have been interesting!  I might even have retracted the criticism if he'd directly responded to it with some convincing argument.)  We wouldn't use the suffering of death row inmates, or slaves, or starving children that way.  If we're serious about animals being entitled to respect and compassion, we shouldn't use them that way either.

But all that's really just theoretical, because I don't buy it that Temple Grandin's reforms are going to make people consume more animal products. There have been a number of humane reforms in the US in the last several years, and even more in the European Union, but the overall amount of animal food being consumed in developed countries isn't increasing, according to the UN report Livestock's Long Shadow (pg. 16).  I've seen no evidence that the trend toward humane standards is attracting people toward animal consumption who wouldn't otherwise be engaging in it. (And here's where Gary's responding to argument might have been helpful.  What's his evidence?  Why does he think there's a trend like this?)

An aspect of Gary's approach is its categorizing of animal advocates as either "abolitionist" or "new welfarist."  Abolitionists see a problem with the basic practice of killing animals and using them as our resources. Then there are welfarists (and he may as well say "demons," since that's how he sees them) who care only about animal welfare and favor incremental change. This is really a hopeless taxonomy because there's no reason whatever that bits of the two positions can't be combined (and supplemented with other ideas). It's a combo view that many advocates actually embrace.

Like me, for example.  I think there is a problem with killing (I don't buy Peter Singer's "replacement argument"), but it does not eclipse the problem of suffering.  We ought to address the problem of suffering and we ought to address the problem of killing. It's not that one is just a matter of "how" and the other is the essence of the matter.  It's really important for cattle to be effectively stunned in slaughter houses.  Bravo for Temple Grandin that she's tackling the problem of suffering.

45 comments:

Brandon Becker said...

If Temple Grandin really understood the minds of other animals, she'd stop designing slaughterhouses and start working for their freedom from slavery and murder.

I highly recommend reading the article below by Dr. Coral Hull, an autistic person who stands up for animal rights:

"ANIMALS (LOST) IN TRANSLATION
Animal Rights vs Animal Abuse"
http://www.abolitionist-online.com/article-issue04_animals.lost.in.translation_dr.coral.hull.shtml

Alex Chernavsky said...

Do you still stand by the following comment that you wrote on November 24? If not, will you retract it? If you do still stand by it, can you provide evidence to support your statement?

"Essentially, [Gary Francione] wants to keep animals in the worst possible condition in order to use their suffering to rally people to the cause of totally changing the status of animals."

ian said...

"He's not getting inside the minds of animals, which is what Temple Grandin is so good at (her book Animals in Translation is fantastic)."

This is just silly. Do you really think this is true?

Jean Kazez said...

I see the Franciphiles are tweeting with each other again.

Alex, You are a wolf in sheep's clothing. You've been posting comments here for quite some time, and it's become clear to me that your whole purpose is to leave links to Gary's website.

http://twitter.com/chernavsky

I think that's silly and tedious. This is a philosophy blog--it's for discussion and debate, not for propagandizing.

As for standing by my comment...of course I do. What do you think this whole post is about? It's about explaining, clarifying, and backing up that claim. If Gary wants to respond, let him go ahead and do it. Maybe he can convince that my argument against him (as fully explained in the post) is unsound and maybe he can't.

Brandon, Here's the thing. If Temple Grandin started working for the freedom of animals, then who would take care of the needs of the 56 billion animals we kill every year (Gary's statistic)? Do you really seriously want to have nobody in charge of protecting their welfare? That's exactly my point--you "abolitionists" really do seem to want to do nothing for all those animals. I sincerely find that puzzling.

Look (olive branch coming...don't misinterpret it)--you are good guys. Alex works for the Humane Society doing good things for animals, and that's great. I think it's terrific that you're vegans, etc. But I am worrried about everyone else--people with less fortitude, the animals that WILL be eaten in the coming year, despite your efforts. I really think we should appreciate that Temple Grandin is doing something for them.

Ian, Animals in Translation is a great book. Have you read it?

ian said...

"Ian, Animals in Translation is a great book. Have you read it?"

I haven't read it, and I promise to check it out after this, but really, I am wondering if you think this sort of thing is possible... that one being can speak for another, or "get into the mind" of another. With all seriousness, do you believe this?

Faust said...

Uh oh. Soon Jean will be the "Chris Mooney" of "welfare accomodationism," regularly hounded by a cadre of "new abolitionists."

Dave Shishkoff said...

Hello,

While i am no fan of GF, and agree with several of your initial characterizations of him, i disagree with the gist of your posting.

In reforming the industry, one becomes a participant in the industry. Our duty as animal advocates is to oppose animal exploitation, not sanitize it.

The examples given are a ridiculous to advocate as well, assuming that the life quality of these imprisoned animals is of any importance.

The stunning process involves all of the final few seconds of an animal's life.

All this time, work and effort from 'advocates' to ensure that a few seconds of an animals life is as humane[sic] as possible. (BTW, were one familiar with what humane actually means, this term would never be used in association with animal husbandry practices.)

I'm not the best at math, but this gives you an idea how inane this is: if a cow lives 2yrs before slaughter, that's 1051200 seconds of life. If slaughter involves about 30 seconds of life, that works out to 2 HUNDRED THOUSANDS of a percent of that animal's life.

In other words, that animal will experience 30 seconds 35,000 times before slaughter.

Even were one an advocate of animal husbandry reform, surely other issues influence a more significant portion of an animal's life than something like 1/35,000th of their life?

What this tells us is these efforts are for the comfort of humans (who will experience this all day, and consumers who are participants in these murders), and not at all for the beings about to have their lives taken away.

Vegan advocacy is a much more meaningful use of our time. It reduces the suffering by eliminating animals from the process entirely. Which to me is much more meaningful than spending time on a tiny fraction of their life experience.

amos said...

There seems to be something in radical positions which brings out the best in humanity, our inner lynch mob.

Jean Kazez said...

I had to do some weeding. Those who got weeded shouldn't be surprised.

Nothing's going to be published here that doesn't respond directly to the points in my post. I have made it clear what the ad hominems are, and all the Franciphiles have already read them, because they follow Gary's Twitter feed...so they're faking it when they plead ignorance. I have explained in the post in what sense I believe it's true that Gary wants to use animal suffering strategically. Either respond to that or don't comment. Please don't go on and on repeating stuff you've read at Gary's website. Trust me, I've read it too.

So that leaves Ian, Dave, Faust, and Amos.

Ian--Of course "get into the mind" of another is just a metaphor, not something you can literally do. There are lots of different reasons why I find it plausible that she has better insight than most people, but you just have to read the book to make up your own mind.

Dave, Look, the suffering of animals comes second by second. There are the seconds of branding, castrating, transportation, slaughter, etc. Every one of those seconds counts. It would just wild to interpret me as saying that as long as the seconds of slaughter are dealt with by Temple Grandin, then everything is peachy keen. But of course, making those seconds of slaughter as painless as possible is a very good thing.

Vegan advocacy is a good thing, and people who do it should be lauded. But why not laud Temple Grandin too. I will repeat the point I made above. Nearly 56 billion animals ARE going to be killed next year. I don't see how anyone who cares about animals could disapprove of efforts to reduce their suffering.

Faust and Amos, Exactly. I can't tell you how much I feel like Chris Mooney. But this will end soon. My book is for the huge majority of people who are not sure what to think about the status of animals, not for people are absolutely sure, like Gary and Co. I will go back to "regular programming" very, very soon.

Elizabeth Collins said...

"...Look, the suffering of animals comes second by second. There are the seconds of branding, castrating, transportation, slaughter, etc..."

and why is this? It is because people are not vegan. So, if you care, why are you not vegan? My goodness. Will you delete this comment also? I think it is a fair question.

Brandon Becker said...

Jean, can you please stop deleting my comments? I replied directly to your accusations that I supposedely want advocates to "do nothing."

I don't even have a Twitter account and have had my own disagreements with Francione in the past. Are you deleting my posts because they of the same philosophy Francione espouses?

Jean Kazez said...

I deleted comments that didn't "engage" with my post. I think that's fair.

Elizabeth, I believe you're right that I should be a vegan. I'm just not completely there yet. It's easy for me to be a vegetarian, not easy for me to give up milk and eggs.

Brandon, OK, make the point again. I just want points to be directly responsive to my post.

Brandon Becker said...

Abolitionists understand that true welfare for other animals is incompatible with exploitation.

The way to maximally reduce their suffering within systems of oppression and end their enslavement and murder is to work for their emancipation. Every human who becomes vegan is part of the solution. Each vegan can encourage others to become vegan.

As more become vegan, industry will reform their practices (or pretend through deceptive marketing) to assuage the public and keep them consuming products of violence. By promoting veganism we are building the critical mass of support to dismantle speciesist industries and, ultimately, abolish the status of nonhuman animals as property and accord them rights as persons under the law. Justice demands nothing less.

Jean Kazez said...

Brandon, I'm publishing your comment frankly just to use it as exhibit A. The comment does not connect at all with anything I said in the post. This isn't a place for people to make speeches. Respond specifically to the post or...don't respond! (And save speeches for your own blog.)

Jean Kazez said...

Again (I'm responding to complaints)--wholly responsive comments will be published, whether or not they are in agreement with the post. Non-responsive or abusive comments will not be published.

amos said...

If I'm out of line, delete me, Jean. No problem. First, folks, as a hopeless welfarist wimp, I would not think of launching a twitter blitzkreig against an abolitionist blog: I might politely express my disagreement and then sit down to eat my semi-vegan nightly meal. Two, Jean was slowly, but surely convincing me (and my household, since I'm in charge of food) to convert from vegetarianism to semi-veganism. Having met you, folks, we'll reconsider how rapidly we'll make that transition. Finally, my abolitionist friends, why don't you change your name to "prohibitionists"? The spirit that animates you seems identical to the self-righteousness and puritanism which led the United States to prohibit alcoholic drinks in the 1920's, thus, creating a huge black market for the same product.

Corey Wrenn said...

Temple Grandin supports humane slaughter methods because they make the meat industry more productive and more efficient. I have a copy of the hearing for the 1977 revision of humane slaughter act. This is a direct excerpt from her statement: "In order to prove that the humane way is the profitable and economic way I worked as the stunner operator in this plant for six, ten-hour shifts. The employees were amazed that I could get the animals into the chute much faster by treating them gently. At the end of the week I had reduced their bruise losses, and down time losses by about 50%" (pg 13)

If anyone was genuinely concerned with non-human animal suffering, would they actively participate in their slaughter...and work so diligently to improve efficiency?

David said...

Jean: As I follow many abolitionist Twitter feeds, I suspect that I may be dismissed as a 'Franciphile', despite our productive discussion earlier this week. However, I think your characterisation of your debate with Francione is extremely one-sided, and, frankly, still wonder whether you have read much of his work.

In a previous post, you asked me if I had read Singer. I replied that I had. Have you read 'Rain Without Thunder'? This debate seems like a fundamental failure on your part to engage with Francione's arguments, combined with his desire to discuss it via telephone, your refusal to do so, and his refusal in turn to debate online. And, of course, his understandable offence at your (accidental, I assume) distortion of his arguments.

You accuse Francione of ad hominems, yet still distort his thought, alleging that he compares welfarists to 'demons'.

For full disclosure: I wrote a piece about this on a group-blog I edit: http://thesolution.org.nz/2009/12/02/francione-and-kazez-abolition-and-welfare/

As an abolitionist and a vegan, I have little sympathy for Grandin. If we take animals' moral standing seriously, then we should not kill them. This comes back to the slaves point again. I'm not going to befriend a slave-owner because she buys her slaves shoes regularly.

Jean Kazez said...

Corey, Have you read "Animals in Translation"? If you read it, I think you will see that Temple Grandin cares about animals. No, it's not her goal in life to "make the meat industry more productive and more efficient." That quote shows something else -- that if you want to sell humane practices to the meat industry, you have to convince them that they're cost effective. Welcome to the real world!

Amos, I think these guys have the wrong idea about how to attract people to veganism. Having taught Animal Rights for about 10 years (to everyone from vegans to hunters) I've seen a lot about how people react to ideas about animals and ethics. In fact I've seen how they react to Gary's ideas, since I've taught them (an article plus his website and podcasts--and I've also read his first book) for three semesters now. I'm afraid they don't react well to his ideas or his aggressive, confrontational style. I've spent a lot of time trying to get people to see his points and take him seriously ....which is one of the ironies about this little battle that's developed.

Elizabeth Collins said...

I can see is that Amos and Professor Kazez are opposed to the abolitionist message. Well, if I was still directly partaking in the slaughter of innocent animals I probably would be uncomfortable with it too. I don't think alcohol and the cadavers and products of tortured slaughtered animals can be compared in such a way. Also, if someone is not responsive to veganism and the abolitionist message (even going so far as to claim—seemingly out of spite?—that they might not ever go vegan then blame that on the abolitionist message of peace, nonviolence and veganism) well that says everything about them as a person, and nothing about the message the abolitionist approach is spreading. That is their failing, not ours.

Jean Kazez said...

David,

At this point there is no excuse for you to keep repeating that I'm making my argument because of ignorance. In fact, it's an ad hominem. Instead of talking about the argument, you're redirecting the conversation to the topic of me.

There is no excuse, because in my post I've explained exactly the sense in which I think Gary can be accused of wanting to use the suffering of animals to advance the abolitionist cause. Please don't comment again unless you intend to respond to the post.

Generally, the harping on what I've read is just inappropriate. In a civilized conversation, each person does not need to submit a reading list. Each side uses a principle of charity and assumes the other is familiar with key information.

I won't be giving you my reading list or asking for yours, but will just say I've read plenty of Gary's work. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to reading more. It just means--you need to get off that subject and respond to my argument.

Now about the podcast. Let's look at how he phrased the invitation—

“Your misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my ideas is profound and disturbing. You appear to not understand at all (among other things) the structural limitations of welfare that result from the status of nonhumans as chattel property. It is not merely a question of animal welfare "not doing enough"; it is a question of animal welfare actually improving production efficiency and not even moving incrementally in the direction of animal personhood. Although I welcome informed criticisms of my work, you have an obligation not to misrepresent blatantly the work of others.

I do a podcast that is listened to by a fairly large number of people. I would like to invite you to have a discussion with me in which we can explore what you say about my work.”

Would any sane person accept an invitation like that? In fact, I have heard Gary debate other people, so I know this is not an attractive possibility, even apart from the way he has treated me personally in the initial invitation, later in the thread, and at Twitter. I played some of his podcast debate with Erik Marcus for my class last summer. The whole class thought he was bullying, arrogant, and rude. His style totally undermined his message. Again—I haven’t the slightest desire to talk to him. End of that subject.

Elizabeth Collins said...

You know, I must correct myself, I mis-read. I didn't see "semi-vegan". First of all, what on earth is the difference between vegetarian and "semi-vegan"? The fact someon is deciding not to go "semi-vegan" is kind of a non-event. Remember, the message is about justice. The message is about peace. If you don't like people personally, or an advocate's individual style, please put that aside and think about the message, think about the non human animals rather than the human ones for a second. It is not about us or our egos, it is about them, and it is only about them. If speaking about the injustice and violence of using animals for any reason, for all the reasons we use them, isn't effective enough to cause you to want to change, then that doesn't mean anyone should comfort you in your trying justify the violence by eating "humane" or "cutting down". It is an inherent message of peace, and is nothing to do with anyone's ego.

Jean Kazez said...

Elizabeth, My forthcoming book argues for veganism and generally advocates for animals. If I am one of the bad guys just because I don't accept Gary's "abolitionist" philosophy then I'm a monkey's uncle.

Jean Kazez said...

One last thing on my lack of interest in debating Gary (see above, 8:39), apparently I'm in good company--

http://my-face-is-on-fire.blogspot.com/2009/08/open-letter-of-invitation-to-ingrid.html

Stephanie said...

I don't have time to read all of these comments. I do, however, want to thank you for addressing the absurdity of framing all animal advocacy positions in terms of the binary of abolitionism and welfarism.

rtk said...

I get the impression that *accountability* is to be served on a royal tray with a side dish of humble minced meat pie, presented on bended knee to the stuffed turkey who's throwing up that word repeatedly. Beastly behavior, really. What is it about wearing nylon shirts and plastic shoes that imbues the wearer with such taste for human prey? Nothing wrong with the idea of veganism aside from its wussiness, but it certainly attracts a lot of squirrely characters who are full of copious ullbayitshay (pig latin for bullshit).

Lorraine Haines said...

I suppose that my comment may be deleted as it doesn't refer directly to your post, but I'm puzzled about your argument for veganism in your forthcoming book.
If you are not vegan, it suggests that you are not fully convinced your own principles. Should you not live by your principles before putting the case for them to others?

There is no question that you could become vegan right now. If it came to light that the egg and dairy industries exploited and killed humans, I think it is likely that you would do so. So it is a question of motivation.

If you, as an advocate, cannot practice the actions you endorse, and instead call for less cruelty in an industry that would not exist if it were not supported by consumers like yourself, why are you arguing for veganism at all?

Jean Kazez said...

Stephanie, Thank you for that. I think one of the benefits of studying philosophy is that it make you realize that moral issues (and others) are hard, so that there really are many vantage points worth taking seriously. Yes, some are beyond the pale, but there are many worth-thinking-about approaches to animal ethics besides Gary's type of abolitionism and the view he calls "new welfarism."

Jean Kazez said...

Lorraine, Interesting question. I deal with it at some length in the book.

I do argue that someone like me should be a vegan--"like me" means someone who has no vital reason besides taste to eat animal products. I don't say that someone must be a vegan (e.g. even if they can't survive without meat). I think there are both bad reasons and good reasons to make use of animals.

But yes, someone like me should be a vegan. I don't eat meat, but do eat eggs and milk (I buy the "humane" varieties). This is definitely not all I should be doing, so is it bad for me to argue for veganism?

Not at all. First, a general point. It's often true in ethics that you become convinced you should do X before you're ready to do X. For example I am convinced by Peter Singer's arguments about our obligations to the poor. So I think I should be giving all my money to relieve extreme poverty, except what I need for necessities. I don't think the difficulty living up to a demanding conclusion should get in the way of following good reasoning where it leads.

As far as "vegan education" goes, I think admitting to your own struggles is all to the good. It tells people--"Go ahead and make some changes. You don't have to go all the way. If you can only give up veal right now, I will not judge you. I am not perfect either."

In all my years of teaching Animal Rights (nearly 10) I have never met a person who went directly from being an omnivore to being a vegan. Everyone is "in flux"--deciding about different things, making gradual changes. It would make no sense on any level to judge these people harshly. It would be counterproductive AND it would show a misunderstanding of the psychology of animal consumption.

Jean Kazez said...

RTK--I think you're just reacting to the hyper-judgmental tone of some of these comments. I do think vegans are doing the right thing, and not all of them are intolerant.

amos said...

One of the problems in this debate is that the process of getting people to make major changes in their life-style, that is, stop eating all animal products, is very different than "winning" a debate in metaethics or epistemology. In the latter case, one tries to outreason the other without thought for the other's feelings or sense of self.
On the other hand, trying to get people to change their habits or life-style isn't just of question of winning an argument: if you alienate the other by your arguments or by your aggressivenes, the other will very likely refuse to change his or her lifestyle.

A semi-vegan tries to eat animal products as little as possible, but doesn't make veganism a purity issue. I don't have the time to read all labels (and then Goggle all the strange ingredients); I need leather shoes because I have an arch problem, although I buy as few pairs of shoes as possible, sturdy shoes that last for years; the soy products contained in most vegan recipes aren't sold in Santiago, Chile, my residence; other household members accept eating, say, brown rice with lentils, but insist on adding grated cheese, which I don't use now: I can hardly order them not to eat grated cheese; one household member is an 8 year old child, who, as is common with most 8 year-olds, refuses to eat vegetables and most fruit, and without a balanced diet of vegetables and fruits, a vegan diet does not provide sufficient nutrition for a growing child. Real life problems.

Lorraine Haines said...

Should you though, be giving all of your money to relieve extreme poverty in a system that allows extreme poverty, or working to change the fundamental values in that society that makes the poverty acceptable on a widespread basis?

There is no question that you can go vegan now - many have. YOU CAN survive without flesh, eggs or dairy. I don't want to assume what your position would be in any situation, but would you not, if placed in a society in which the consumption of humans was viewed much as the consumption of non-humans is in our society, refrain from consuming the flesh or secretions of those humans?

Jean Kazez said...

You'd have to read Singer's famous article "Famine, Affluence, and Morality" to see how convincingly he argues that we should be giving most of our money to alleviate extreme poverty. His new book "The Life You Can Save" covers the same ground, but shifts to a stance that's more tolerant of "doing your best." You see the exact same shift in his book "The Ethics of What We Eat."

The thing about eating animals is that once upon a time it probably really was necessary, and it got built into our genes, our cultures, etc. It's a non-pathological part of us, completely unlike other wrongs (like eating people, rape, etc). So getting past it is very hard. I think appreciating the hardness is essential, if you want to take an appropriate approach to people who still consume animal products. It's also pragmatic. If you tell someone they're like a cannibal (or rapist, or slave owner) if they're still eating meat, that's going to alienate them in just about every case.

What works for me is not messages that I am like a cannibal, but just helpful suggestions. Somebody recently told me almond soy milk was much better than regular. OK--I'll try it!

Faust said...

I think this where you lose the millitant vegan contingent Jean:

"Go ahead and make some changes. You don't have to go all the way. If you can only give up veal right now, I will not judge you. I am not perfect either."

One of the words I've seen bandied about here on the abolitionist sites is the term "murder." It's clear that for vegans of the stripe in question here, there is an equivalency between killing a chicken and killing an adult human being. Or this would seem to be what the rhetoric indicates.

I go outside and strike my neighbor down with an axe: murder.

I go in my backyard and strike down a chicken with an axe: murder.

I take that to be Lorraine's contention when she suggests that you would be a vegan if all those animal products were human beings and not animals, and that you would not be able to "not judge" people for eating them because it would be well...murder.

Your veganist sympathies are real but "weak" relative to a position that holds animals are persons "just like us in every relevant sense" because you don't think they are "just like us in every relevant sense." So some of the disconnect here is simply that it's hard for a "full" vegan who has seen the light of human/animal equivalency to understand how you could not be militant about veganism given that fact that it is every bit as bad to kill animals as it is to kill people.

I think an analogous situation arises around the subject of abortion. E.g. I tell my pro-life friend that I am inclined to think that abortion is often wrong, but not so wrong that outlawing it will not create other wrongs. But they think abortion is MURDER and therefore my "weak" acceptance of the immorality of abortion is simply at odds with the gravity of the situation.

But I do not think killing fetuses or chickens is "the same as" shooting my neighbor in the face. I think they are both false equivalencies even though I can find sympathy with both admonitiions not to kill fetuses or chickens.

Jean Kazez said...

Faust, Hmm...I wonder if that's right. The New Abolitionists are fond of analogies--they bring in rape, slavery, cannibalism, and surely don't think that eating meat is really just like all of these things. So I wasn't thinking they necessarily equate killing animals and killing people.

If they do, then right...I don't agree. I object to killing animals, but don't think it has exactly the same valence as killing people. If you thought so, you'd never be able to explain why you actually can kill animals (but not people) to save your own life (think about a survival situation). You'd also have a hard time explaining why people should be saved from a burning building before rats.

Some will have an immediate reaction that these inegalitarian thoughts are speciesist, but they shouldn't. Note--Gary himself says animals don't have all our rights. In fact, the only right he allows them is the right not to be treated as property. No doubt, he doesn't see that as speciesist...and I agree, it isn't. We are being speciesist when bias is in the driver's seat. If we have sound reasons for making distinctions, we can't be accused of speciesism.

So--why (besides its being explanatory) should we think that it's not as bad to kill animals? Long story--I explain at length in my book (chapters 5 and 6).

Faust said...

Well I could well be wrong here. But I repeatedly see the word "murder" bandied about. You can see it above in the comments on this very thread. Now it may be that it's being used "metaphorically" instead of "literally," but it seems to be used in the sense I describe: where there some kind of equivalency meant.

Alex Chernavsky said...

I've attempted to address the issues directly.

Peter Singer: Jean Kazez wrote, "Just what 'welfarist corporation' does Peter Singer 'lead'?!" Peter Singer is the head of Animal Rights International (ARI), which is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. ARI generally pursues welfarist goals.

Temple Grandin: I've split-up my Grandin-related response into five sections. Even if we accept Kazez's claims about Grandin's audit system, there still remain several issues. First of all, advocacy is a zero-sum game: resources spent on pursuing goal "A" are necessarily unavailable to pursue goal "B". Instead of working with the animal industry, Grandin could have employed her considerable talents in persuading people to give up eating animal products. Since Grandin claims to have insights into animal psychology, perhaps she could have used those insights to teach people that animals have an interest in living, regardless of whether they are killed humanely or not.

Second, enforcement of regulations is always a concern, as evidenced here.

Third, by making slaughter more efficient, Grandin helps the animal-exploitation industry become more profitable and hence more entrenched.

Fourth, Professor Kazez claims that there is no evidence that welfare-type measures lead to increased consumption of animal products. This question is unresolved. Only recently has the public shown much interest in purchasing allegedly humane products, so we don't have enough data yet. Certainly, there is lots of anecdotal evidence of people saying that they feel better about purchasing "certified humane" (or what-have-you) products. There is also anecdotal evidence of former vegetarians starting to eat "humane meat".

Fifth: If I understood Professor Kazez correctly, then it's acceptable (under Grandin's slaughter system) for stunning to be botched 5% of the time. Is this level of "quality control" (if we can use that term) something for which Grandin should be lauded? It's small consolation for the millions of cows that fall into that 5% group.

Offhand comments which cause offense: There is a significant and relevant difference between the following two statements: "John Smith wants animals to suffer" vs. "My opinion is that if we adopt John Smith's suggestions, then the unintended consequence will be that animals will suffer". Professor Kazez seems to imply that the statements are interchangeable.

Classroom instruction: Professor Kazez says that she has used the Francione/Marcus debate as part of her classroom instruction. She also claims that her students reacted negatively to Professor Francione's debating style. But surely students of philosophy should understand that the validity of an argument is independent of the style in which it's presented? Regardless, if Professor Kazez has a genuine desire to expose her students to the principles of abolition, and if she has prior knowledge that the audio version of the debate has distracting qualities, then perhaps she should use the transcript, or maybe skip the debate altogether and use a difference source for the same basic material.

A personal note: A comment posted above stated that I work for the Humane Society. Just to clarify, I work for a local, independent animal shelter that incorporates the generic term "humane society" as part of its name. I don't work for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). I mention this fact only because I disagree with HSUS's stance on many issues.

Jean Kazez said...

Alex, You laid out all your points nice and methodically, so I will respond equally methodically (and this will be the longest comment on earth).

Peter Singer: Jean Kazez wrote, "Just what 'welfarist corporation' does Peter Singer 'lead'?!" Peter Singer is the head of Animal Rights International (ARI), which is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. ARI generally pursues welfarist goals.

That's a very tendentious description of Peter Singer, whatever the technical status of ARI. Also, it's highly distorted to pigeonhole Singer as a welfarist, if that means someone who wants to reform animal agriculture and not end it. It couldn't be more clear in Animal Liberation that Singer wants to end it. Anybody who thinks he's only for humane reform just hasn't read the book.

Temple Grandin: I've split-up my Grandin-related response into five sections. Even if we accept Kazez's claims about Grandin's audit system, there still remain several issues. First of all, advocacy is a zero-sum game: resources spent on pursuing goal "A" are necessarily unavailable to pursue goal "B". Instead of working with the animal industry, Grandin could have employed her considerable talents in persuading people to give up eating animal products. Since Grandin claims to have insights into animal psychology, perhaps she could have used those insights to teach people that animals have an interest in living, regardless of whether they are killed humanely or not.

Any reasonable person has to agree that in the coming year around 10 billion animals will be raised for food in the US. I think you're just wrong to think "abolitionist vegan education" could do more good for those animals than Grandin is doing. I have seen a decade's worth of students react to all sorts of pro-animal literature. Very few of them become vegetarians, and I honestly have to say, the material that is least convincing to people is the one that's most absolutist (like Regan and Francione). In any event, it's fair to say that Grandin should be doing vegan education instead of slaughter house design. She's an animal science professor, not an animal activist. Your point about zero-sum pertains to PETA and HSUS etc., but not to Grandin.

Second, enforcement of regulations is always a concern, as evidenced here.

Very true. I rather like Cass Sunstein's proposal for dealing with that in the Sunstein/Nussbaum anthology (maybe you know it).

Third, by making slaughter more efficient, Grandin helps the animal-exploitation industry become more profitable and hence more entrenched.

I don't get that. The standard explanation for why slaughter houses have such fast assembly lines and factory farms give animals so little space is that this makes animal agriculture more profitable. The profit on each animal is very low as is, and people are constantly looking for ways to cut corners. You can't countenance those realities and then turn around and say that the point of humane reforms is making animal agriculture more profitable. I think when Grandin tries to convince farmers that there are benefits to them of humane system, she's just saying the changes aren't going to be as bad from a business perspective as people might think.

Jean Kazez said...

Fourth, Professor Kazez claims that there is no evidence that welfare-type measures lead to increased consumption of animal products. This question is unresolved. Only recently has the public shown much interest in purchasing allegedly humane products, so we don't have enough data yet. Certainly, there is lots of anecdotal evidence of people saying that they feel better about purchasing "certified humane" (or what-have-you) products. There is also anecdotal evidence of former vegetarians starting to eat "humane meat".

We know for sure that humane reforms will bring benefits (some small, some large) to billions of animals. If you're going to withhold certain benefits for such a vast number of animals, for fear of people eating more meat, you really need to know that the prediction is solid.You also need to think through whether some increase in animals killed is really worth it for a vast savings in suffering. Personally I do think so. That's not because killing animals doesn't matter, but because preventing suffering is important AS WELL.

Fifth: If I understood Professor Kazez correctly, then it's acceptable (under Grandin's slaughter system) for stunning to be botched 5% of the time. Is this level of "quality control" (if we can use that term) something for which Grandin should be lauded? It's small consolation for the millions of cows that fall into that 5% group.

Actually, I don't think double-stunning 5% of the time is acceptable. I just think it's better than 10% of the time, or 20% of the time. If you look at her statistics, the amount of repeat stunning has been reduced under her auditing system.

Offhand comments which cause offense: There is a significant and relevant difference between the following two statements: "John Smith wants animals to suffer" vs. "My opinion is that if we adopt John Smith's suggestions, then the unintended consequence will be that animals will suffer". Professor Kazez seems to imply that the statements are interchangeable.

Gary seems to think the really serious issue about animal use is treating animals as property, and the suffering involved is just a detail, a matter of "how," and not the essential problem. He does say we shouldn't institute humane reforms because it will increase meat-eating. How can you say that, and NOT be saying that inhumane conditions should be sustained because they inspire people to stop eating meat? How is that different from wanting to keep animals in the worst conditions in order to achieve abolitionist goals? I don't think what I said is the scandalous misrepresentation that Gary thinks it is.

Classroom instruction: Professor Kazez says that she has used the Francione/Marcus debate as part of her classroom instruction. She also claims that her students reacted negatively to Professor Francione's debating style. But surely students of philosophy should understand that the validity of an argument is independent of the style in which it's presented? Regardless, if Professor Kazez has a genuine desire to expose her students to the principles of abolition, and if she has prior knowledge that the audio version of the debate has distracting qualities, then perhaps she should use the transcript, or maybe skip the debate altogether and use a difference source for the same basic material.

I played 15 minutes of the podcast while simultaneously displaying the transcript. Students who had laptops looked ahead in the transcript and discovered the bit where Erik Marcus compains about the way Gary is constantly interrupting him. So the transcript itself leaves the same impression of over-aggressiveness that the podcast does.

David xvx said...

ETHICS AND ABSOLUTISM
Stephanie, Thank you for that. I think one of the benefits of studying philosophy is that it make you realize that moral issues (and others) are hard, so that there really are many vantage points worth taking seriously. Yes, some are beyond the pale, but there are many worth-thinking-about approaches to animal ethics besides Gary's type of abolitionism and the view he calls "new welfarism."

I think the key point of much of Francione's work is that eating animal products is beyond the pale, if we take animals' moral standing or speciesism seriously! If we did what we do to animals to humans, it would be utterly intolerable. So, then, if we accept that species alone is not a relevant ethical factor, why is this not beyond the pale for animals?

Some moral issues are hard. I think the hard questions about veganism though are the strategic and the practical, not the moral.

ON ANIMAL PERSONHOOD
If you thought so, you'd never be able to explain why you actually can kill animals (but not people) to save your own life (think about a survival situation). You'd also have a hard time explaining why people should be saved from a burning building before rats.

These are really bad arguments - arguments that aren't just refuted by Francione's work (I mean, his first book was subtitled 'Your Child or the Dog'!) but by Regan's and Singer's. Plus - as a lawyer - I'm a bit confused by your assumption that it is wrong to kill humans in self-defence. I don't see a difference here.

Saving people from a burning building? Francione definitely considers this dilemma, in extreme detail, and I seem to recall Regan and Singer doing the same. Mary Midgley's emotional bonds argument has some use here too, although I differ from her on several points. But, basically, I'm not ethically wrong if I save someone who is closer to me from the fire - family over stranger, etc - because of the relevance of our emotional bonds and extra familial/friendship duties. By analogy, we may have extra duties owed to other humans, on top of those we have as a moral baseline.

David xvx said...

ANIMALS AS PROPERTY
Note--Gary himself says animals don't have all our rights. In fact, the only right he allows them is the right not to be treated as property. No doubt, he doesn't see that as speciesist...and I agree, it isn't. We are being speciesist when bias is in the driver's seat. If we have sound reasons for making distinctions, we can't be accused of speciesism.

This is another case of not engaging with Francione's work. The point is not that the only right is to not be property. Certainly, for ethically relevant reasons, humans and animals may have different rights, based on different ethically relevant characteristrics. But Francione does not extend only one right to animals. He extends at least one other - not to be killed, most obviously.

The right not to be termed as property stems from Francione's legal background. And this is one of the things he really adds to the animal rights field. In law, things are binary. There is property, and there are persons. Either animal is a thing, or a person. You either hold rights or have rights held by others over you. So the fundamental legal transition is from the paradigm of animals as property - because property does not have rights, and rights always trump welfare interests - to animals as persons (although I prefer the more emotively neutral term 'rights holders') - because persons may hold rights. The right not to be property, then, is the legal doorway to being able to protect your other rights.

From a lawyer's perspective, I can't stress the importance of that - and the way that hit me, from Francione's work, as a moment of revelation. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of that! I'd been a vegan law student for a few years, before even considering the fundamental jurisprudential problem. It blindsided me.

Moving to animals as rights-holders changes so much in law. Even issues like legal standing to enforce welfare laws, which are huge problems now, will go when animals stop being called property.

Again, we need more multidisciplinary integration if we want academia to help advance animal interests.

By the way - if I posted a post as obnoxious as RTK's, would you not delete it? It does not respond to the initial post, and outright calls veganism 'wussy'. Come on!

So: RTK:
Beastly behavior, really. What is it about wearing nylon shirts and plastic shoes that imbues the wearer with such taste for human prey? Nothing wrong with the idea of veganism aside from its wussiness, but it certainly attracts a lot of squirrely characters who are full of copious ullbayitshay

Weak. By the way - I wear cotton shirts, vegan shoes, and ran my first marathon a month ago. For the first four years of being vegan, I trained in Kung Fu, and travelled to train in Hong Kong and Macau. Sup? What's 'wussy' about veganism - and what's manly about buying eggs, dairy, and meat from the supermarket?

Jean Kazez said...

David, Again, you're making lots of unwarranted assumptions about what I've read, how I teach my class, etc. I omitted the most presumptuous of your comments, and just published the last two...which are also presumptuous and (honestly) not well thought through.

On the various points you make, I have to be honest--I think you make many mistakes about what philosophers (like Regan and Singer) think and you also don't understand the meaning of "self defense." If I am starving in the woods and contemplate killing a rabbit, that's not self-defense. (Duh--the rabbit isn't attacking me.)

As for the rest--well, it would take pages and pages to get into all these things. I wrote a book in order to explore all these issues and it's been endorsed by some great people (and not just my mother). It's just possible you might learn something from it.

David xvx said...

Jean: I didn't make any assumptions about how you run your class. Your summary is off-base.

Perhaps self-defence was the wrong term; self-preservation would do likewise. Again, I see no distinction. If I had to kill a human to preserve my own life,

And, please: I work in criminal law, as I believe I've said You talk a lot about the principle of charity. Do you really think it is...charitable to assume that a lawyer doesn't know what self-defence means?

Call it self-defence or necessity, the point remains: Doing what you have to do to plain survive, with no other option, is not unethical.

How do I misunderstand Singer or Regan? If my posts are not well thought through - how? Remember to apply the principle of charity - and please refrain from misrepresenting me or accusing me of demonising people; if that is what you call charitable, I'm glad I'm not asking you for a donation.

I intend to post a follow-up article on the Solution, given that you refuse to engage with - or post - my analysis here.

amos said...

David: You say that an animal is either a person or a thing. Isn't there a third possibility?
That an animal is an animal and that we (people) have to learn how to treat animals (who are neither persons nor things) decently. Frankly, the whole abolitionist-prohibitionist tendency is based on bad metaphors: that an animal is a person, that the treatment of animals is slavery, that eating meat is cannibalism. In the first text on logic that I read many years ago, they warned
against metaphorical definitions: the example of a metaphorical definition was "marriage is slavery". Marriage has some points in common with slavery, as does factory farming, but neither is slavery, which is treating another human being (and animals are neither persons nor human beings) as property.

Jean Kazez said...

David, You did make assumptions about how I run my class. You said it needed to be multidisciplinary, not stopping to think that maybe it is (and yes, it is). You said I should avoid the dichotomy "omnivore vs. vegetarian," not stopping to think that maybe I do (and I do).

If you're a criminal attorney and don't see the difference between self-defense and self-preservation, then you're in big trouble (just a fact--I'm not being uncharitable). I can kill my neighbor if he's attacking me (self-defense). I can't kill my neighbor if I need an organ donation (self-preservation). Legally, there's a huge difference between doing something in self-defense and doing whatever is "necessary" for self-preservation.

You misunderstand Regan in so far as you don't realize he would defend killing people/animals in self-defense, but wouldn't defend killing them for self-preservation. We don't get to cannibalize each other during a famine (self-preservation), but we can protect ourselves from other cannibals (self-defense). We don't get to kill animals because we're starving (or want to test out our life-saving drugs), but we can kill them if they're attacking us, on his view.

You don't understand Singer if you think he's "refuted" (your word) what I said about the different value of human and animal lives, and how it bears on killing and saving. There's a fairly large overlap between what he says and what I say in my book. So--"refuted"? No.

Amos, I agree, and let's talk about that another day. This thread is starting to make me feel like I let the Jehovah's witnesses in for a "reasonable" chat. Which is not to say there haven't been some comments that really engaged with my post (thank you to those who did)...but that's enough!